I. Midnight Special
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world slept, Sunita Yadav awoke to a levitating alien.
She watched, petrified, as it hovered a foot above the ground just behind her home. Standing over 4ft tall, with grey skin and big, black eyes, it proceeded from the Yadavs’ backyard toward their front door before – as her son Hitesh remembers – it “just vanished”.
In the 15 years since, the humanoid has made numerous other appearances around the Western Command Hospital in Panchkula, some 10 km away from Chandigarh.
“It’s now a mascot. Residents in the area believe it’s lucky to spot it,” says Hitesh, 20, now a tech student living in Gurgaon.
In their sketch, the alien looks like a swarthy dwarf. But Hitesh remains convinced that what he saw was an extraterrestrial. And he spends much of his free time trying to prove it.
Hitesh runs the free bi-monthly e-zine UFO Magazine India, is developer of the Ufology App and founder of Disclosure Team India, which investigates UFO sightings and encounters in the country.
“Disclosure has grown to 200 members since it was set up in January 2016, including 22 from the US and UK,” he says. The website has a form where people can report their sightings in detail.
This form has been filled four times. “But our investigators hear many stories from locals on the ground,” he stresses.
“I’m currently researching an alien abductee case in Chhattisgarh,” Hitesh says. “I don’t care what people think, because my parents and sister are accepting. But my relatives don’t know what I do. If they did, they’d surely call me crazy.”
In the inaugural March issue of UFO Magazine India, columnist Ramkrishan Vaishnav deconstructs the Drake equation proposed by American astrophysicist Frank Drake, a mathematical formula used to estimate the number of detectable extraterrestrials (ETs) in the Milky Way.
“I’m a UFOlogist because I’m a scientist. Even the Indian military has reported sightings,” says the 27-year-old entrepreneur from Nagaur, Rajasthan. “We know little about what lies beyond our own solar system. Why dismiss possibilities altogether?”
In his teens (and with The X-Files etched in his psyche), Vaishnav signed up to help create 3D maps for NASA’s moon missions, analyse asteroid samples for The Planetary Society, and study radio data for the SETI@Home project, the UC Berkeley offshoot of SETI or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute.
But his turning point was March 2008. Just two months after he’d set up TOP (The Other Planet) Research Group to investigate UFO sightings, Vaishnav heard of a sighting in Banswara village, where eight locals reported seeing an unfamiliar craft in the afternoon sky.
Six days later, Vaishnav was there. “The villagers described the UFO as a hat-shaped object with a bright underlight. We also found an odd-shaped stone that looked like nothing else in the radius we scanned. Image evidence of this encounter is the best you’ll find in India,” he says.
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Vaishnav is now founder of ExpeTechnologies and Shakti Innovative Products. He has filed four patents: for a solar satellite plant, non-conventional wireless mobile charging, touchscreen technology, and a next-gen user-interface system.
Tech research is his bread and butter, but ufology remains his Danish pastry.
“I’m intrigued by why many sightings are from Rajasthan and West Bengal. And the Kongka Pass in Ladakh,” he muses. “It’s also a remote military base, so you never know.
On October 26, 2014, at 4.55 am, a man looks out of the window in Thane and sees a horizontal row of red, yellow and green lights that blink but remain stationary for several minutes, then disappear. He records footage on his cellphone.
On November 7, 2014, a fast-moving object is captured hovering over Bengaluru, framed against a full moon. It stays there for nearly an hour, then disappears as suddenly as it appeared.
These cases are among 60 sightings in 2014 that were assigned to Kumaresan Ramanathan after he joined Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
Ramanathan is a senior technical engineer with a Chennai-based IT firm who blogs as alienseeker on Wordpress. In 2012, he became India’s first ‘certified UFO investigator’ under MUFON, the largest non-profit investigating UFOs, with 3,000 members worldwide.
“As they say in The X-Files: ‘I wanted to believe, but the tools have been taken away’.” —Pushkar Vaidya
“MUFON employs scientific methods, not conjecture,” says the 36-year-old. “You have to renew your membership and purchase manuals every year, then take an exam and score at least 80% to become a qualified investigator.”
The test is a mix of objective and multiple choice questions, spanning subjects such as how to interact with eyewitnesses and the plan of action if a witness claims to have an encounter. “They present hypothetical situations to gauge if you’d make for a good investigator,” Ramanathan explains. “All tests are examined at the MUFON headquarters in Newport Beach, California. If you make the cut, you’re given an ID and certificate proclaiming you’re licensed.”
But it’s not all love and sunshine. “Of every 100 cases, about 97 end up being fake — optical illusions, doctored images, or everyday objects mistakenly identified as otherwise,” he admits. “This teaches you discernment.”
Now an independent ufologist after working with MUFON for two years, Ramanathan will visit Aniketty, near Coimbatore, to study a spurt of unexplained objects reported since 2011.
“My family always supported me,” he replies, when asked what people make of his ‘other job’. “Some collegians called me Jaadu for devoting so much time to ufology. But who cares about acquaintances?”